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Europe clinging on to its F1 venues
Posted By: James Allen  |  24 Apr 2012   |  7:49 am GMT  |  200 comments

There has been some movement in the future shape of the F1 calendar with confirmation from Bernie Ecclestone that from next year onwards Valencia and Barcelona will share a slot. And at the same time he said that a deal has been concluded for France to return to the schedule, in a deal alternating with the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa.

“The deal is done,” said Ecclestone. “We agreed the financial terms last Tuesday with the minster of sport, David Douillet. As soon as France is ready, we will sign.”

The sign off for the French Grand Prix is clearly waiting for the French presidential election to be concluded, as is usually the way. It looks quite possible that there could be a new administration in France. Although everyone is working on the assumption that the French race will take place at Paul Ricard in the South of France, paddock sources suggested to me at the weekend not to discount a possible switch and a return to Magny Cours, which hosted the race from 1991 to 2008.

Apparently Paul Ricard, owned by Ecclestone, is not a straightforward proposition as the access roads are not good for a large crowd and there are no grandstands, so temporary ones would have to be erected. There are likely to be political considerations as well, depending on the outcome of the election.

With a French president of the FIA, who is due to face a re-election himself in 18 months time, the French have been making serious efforts to regain their place on the calendar, the French GP not having taken place since 2008. Magny Cours dropped off because of local government finance reasons primarily. The circuit is up to current F1 standards and always provided great racing.

Its return would give Michael Schumacher something to smile about; he won eight times at Magny Cours.

Europe is clinging to its F1 venues, with the financial crisis in the Eurozone set to continue and intensify in the next few years, while there are new venues further afield willing to pay higher sanctioning fees.

Mexico is likely to put a deal together soon, with telecoms billionaire Carlos Slim currently pushing Sergio Perez. If Perez gets into a Ferrari in the near future you can be sure that a Mexican Grand Prix won’t be too far behind. Argentina is pushing hard for a return, while Russia is already scheduled for 2014, New Jersey will have a slot in 2013, probably in June, to tie in with Montreal.

This will leave just seven events; Britain, Monaco, Italy, Spain, Germany, France/Belgium and Hungary as the only European races on a 20 race calendar.

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The Russian GP will be held in Sochi, which is in Europe, yet you havent included it in Your list of European circuits. Why is this?



If you look back over the changes in the last 20yrs, great tracks have gone to be replaced by safe, shopping centre style circuits. Barca is a copy of Estoril, Hungary has always been rubbish (except Mansell on Senna!) and I miss Imola (as a track).

Spa, Pau, Le Mans, Mille Miglia- all are classics which have made motorsport fantastic. Bernie is robbing us of the family silver and replacing it with modern souless replacements.

Who’s betting Monza will struggle to keep its place………


James, I’m assuming that there is no chance of Monaco or Monza losing their right to stage an F1 race every year at all at the moment, but what do you think of the British Grand Prix? Do you think the fact that so many F1 teams are still based in Britain means the British GP should still be safe every year, or do you think we will also end up having to share our race on rotation with another circuit (perhaps Hungary, looking at what’s left)? Or do you think we are at a point where the European market is already squeezed enough?


Singapore, Valencia, the upcoming New Jersey circuit and dare I say it, Monaco should not be on the calendar. Nor should any street circuits (exceptions being Montreal and Albert Park, as these are not really true street circuits).

Monaco is only kept on the calendar because of nostalgic reasons. If the city of Monte Carlo had never held a single GP and an F1 race proposal using this street circuit was put forward to the FIA, it would be rejected in a heartbeat. It is not only unsafe but as the margins for error are so low, most drivers do not really push their cars to the limit. Sure, they drive fast but there is always more to give from both car and driver. The GP result is usually determined on Saturday afternoon or perhaps the fist lap on Sunday. On top of this, the whole event is over glamorised and flamboyant with sheiks, yuppies, playboys, celebrities and scantily clad models who know nothing about and care even less for Formula 1.

Tracks like Imola, Jerez, Magny Cours, Spa, Nurburgring. These are real raceways where true enthusiasts attend.


That would be an interesting poll. GPs not currently on the calendar, which fans would like to see back on. Any doubt that Imola would be top of that list?


Fans have put up with a lot of changes and continued to watch the sport.

But ditching Spa when there are some absolutely abject circuits still on the calendar is like scrapping the FA Cup as opposed to The Johnstone Paints trophy.


First comment since the days James used to answer my questions on ITV Q & A.

Its odd to me that the ‘old’ tracks, where F1 heritage and history is always provide the most entertainment, look at the new Tilke tracks from recent years designed specifically with better racing in mind…, Valencia, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, all only become entertaining because of the, gimmicks Pirelli tyres, and the DRS zones, take these away and you would probably end up with the worlds most expensive traffic jam.

For pure F1 fans removing such tracks off the calender removes alot of the wheel to wheel combat.


A proper World Championship visits every continent. The future for F1 is global – not European, and so long as the ‘founding fathers’ spa, silverstone, monaco, monza etc reamain on the calendar – even if there are but 5 or 6 of them – then so be it.

Bring on Mexico, Argentina, Russia, New Jersey.

This sport will grow and prosper as a true global world championship.

One has to admire Bernie’s vision.


Several things to say:

1. Spa is one of the, if not THE best race tracks in the world. Why make it alternate with France?

2. It makes me sad to see that F1 is now a game of who pays the most. This should NOT be what F1 is about 🙁

3. Glad to see Valencia won’t bore us too much now 🙂

I think Bernie should stop being so greedy.


I’m just about done with Bernie and his constant messing with things. He did a good job of developing the sport from what it was but now he is tinkering with the very foundation stones of F1.

Spa is widely acknowledged as one of the best racing circuits in the world, why oh why, would you let money get in the way of having the best drivers in the world go around it in the best cars in the world at ridiculous speeds? Especially when you’re already a Billionaire!!


F1 is at a Golden Era, the likes that haven’t been seen since Prost, Senna,Mansell, Piquet etc raced. For the next several years, we have 6 world champions on the grid, this year, all of them have the possibility of winning a race. In two decades time when we look back at this golden era and these gods of Motorsport, we’ll see them racing around boring tracks, that were raced on a few times. In 20 years time, I want to reminisce about seeing this golden era racing around the great tracks that all the previous greats raced on. Imola, Spa, Monza, Silverstone, Nurburgring etc. I wonder what the calendar would look like if Bernie Ecclestone didn’t get paid a commission from negotiating the track fees. Times like now I reminisce, not back to the great tracks being raced on by the greats, but of a picture of a black and blue faced man getting mugged in London. How ironic, the worlds greatest mugger, being done by a couple of London cronies. Makes me smile.


The times, they are a changing… even the Nurburgring isn’t the Nurburgring any more.


It doesn’t take a genius to work out that a win at Spa or Monaco means much, much more to a driver than a win at Bahrain or Valencia.

As a fan, I think losing this circuit annually cheapens the value of the drivers title and the tradition of visiting here will be diminished.

Please Bernie, retire and relinquish these critical decisions to someone who has the sports best intererst at the forefront of their thinking. Not the wealth of their family.


Lets not fool ourselves thinking that its all Bernie/CVC. The teams need to go where their sponsors can promote their product. Going to tracks in countries where F1 is less traditional expands the teams’s sponsors reach, therefore adding value to the sponsorships. I really hate to be loosing Spa, its really a breathtaking track, and it always produces great racing. But I dont think the teams really care where the race as long as it keeps the money flowing.


I thought Todt only seeked one term when he was elected in 2009?




Many of the complaints here seem to be people arguing with the oldest truism in the books: Rule#1: Money talks, BS walks.

If ppl can’t put on a race and make a buck they’re not going to do it. Sentimentality to the contrary, NObody works for free.

You want to save the race at Spa? Go to the race, spend your money so the organizers do it again next year. Otherwise… see rule #1.


isn’t Bernie acting as the promoter for Spa?

seem to remember that been the main reason it came back onto the calender a few years ago.


At this rate how long can it be before someone finally says “Stuff Bernie and F1” and starts a new formula based in mainly Europe and with sensible rules that allow innovation, awsome speed and power and excitement for MOTOR RACING fans ( after all “thug ball is only made to appeal to thugs and and their ilk so why shouldn’t motor racing be for the fans, why are we trying to attract the thug culture to our illustrious sport? oh yes I forgot — money !!)


If only Steve.

Proper cars with tyres that last enabling drivers to drive on the edge, no stepped noses and above all else…V10 engines.

Glory Be


That’s a point i was going to pick on no matter what of Bernie’s hear threats say the one GP at the end of the day he would not dare axe would be the British that would simply be the biggest possible trigger for a break away series by all the teams without a doubt. And he would fully well be aware of that when push comes to shove.


great track, terrible for racing!

don’t think i’ve ever seen any series put on a decent race there, even gp2 struggled & they managed to put on great racing just about everywhere.


I’d love to see Magny Cours back on the calendar, fingers crossed!


I think I am in the minority in being in favor for most of the changes mentioned by James, having read many of the comments before me. Lets take it one by one:

France is a major country in Europe and one full of history for F1. Its good for them to have it back. I have to agree however with many commentators that the track has not offered a lot of thrills. My fondest memory is of a win by David Coulthard there winning some days after his plane accident. I don’t like losing Spa once every two years though, it could become the European Grand Prix on a permanent basis

Mexico GP? Great idea, the people there are passionate about motorsport and it could rotate with Austin in my opinion. Getting the most rich person in the world involved with the sport will surely help, making the project financially viable

Russia GP. Another major country and would be interesting to see a follow up being created.

Alternating the two Spanish GPs also is a great idea. I would in fact go one step further and would remove the Valencia circuit as is has been a major flop.

New jersey and Austin are good idea to increase the penetration of the sport to the US market.

On Argentina, I have some of the same concerns mentioned by the fellow commentators. Really poor country, infrastructure is not great, but they have a history on the sport.

Although not mentioned by James one could live without Korea and Bahrain. Do we really need two GPs in Middle East? I doubt it. Korea also is not a great circuit but it is too early to judge to be fair.


Abu Dhabi: Ultra Boring

Valencia: Boring

Spain: Boring

Korea: Boring

Singapore: Boring

Malaysia: Boring

Bahrain: Boring

China: Good race this year but uninspiring circuit.

So let’s cull the best circuit on the calendar.

At this rate the corporate sponsors won’t have any viewers.


Biggest worry is the lack of attending fans at most of that spoken of venues should the lack of real time attendance not be a bigger factor than host pay revenue etc, Sport????.

There always quite deliberate to avoid camera shots at a lot of the stands at some events as opposed to others you will note.


I realize Spa may not be worth keeping even if you consider how good its races tend to be… but I hope that factor does get fair consideration.

F1 has spent a lot of money to improve the racing (DRS, tire changes, aero regulation revisions), but racing at Spa instead of Barcelona or the Hungaroring has a similar effect. F1 should try to put a value on that, and compare it to the money that can be made by dropping that track.


There are circuits that should always remain as long as they are up to what is required as far as f1 evolving standards.

Spa seems to have a great amount of fans for a good reason. it is not the only circuit in Europe by far to be justify as such as well.

While Monaco seems out of place to some and to an extent I need to agree. To me it is still a very enjoyable race to follow and is also very much part of the history of f1. With the year we had so far, you could wonder what Monaco will spring.

Other tracks outside of Europe should remain for their particular race requirements & history.

We have lost many good old tracks to newer venues that at time seem a poor deal for the fans. It is not all bad but I feel we would not miss some of those new venues one bit should they be removed from the calendar.

Europe as the cradle of f1, should retain a fair share of the races. as the ratio is today seems to be a good split.

While I can see the logic for some venues to alternate the staging of races for financial reasons, I strongly feel some events should be schedule every year for what they have and still bring to the f1 table. I even feel some circuits should be paid by f1 for them to go there. Of course I am dreaming. Marc


Seems everyone agrees Bernie’s purely motivated by money,not the spectacle.Some even going so far as to say he’s trying to drive the sport into the ground.

Here’s a hypothesis:

Bernie signs agreements with ever more new circuits,guaranteeing himself massive chunks of income,and traditionally entertaining tracks fall by the wayside.In doing so,he alienates fans,viewer numbers fall,and sponsors start to leave the sport.The net worth of F1 falls,and shareholders look to sell at whatever they can get.Bernie buys a majority shareholding at a bargain price,and turns F1 into a family cash cow by eliminating most other shareholders.

Just a thought…


Think bernie might run out of years before getting there.

Lawrence Lavery

It is sad that Spa is now no longer a certainty for the F1 championship. The F1 fraternity should do something about it. According to some people the reason it is now not being considered a certainty is it does not make any money. Why? It is as difficult to get to as any other track (e.g. Silverstone, Hockenheim etc). Where there is a will there is a way! To be fair the last time I was there it was basic, but that is part of the charm. Surely, there are enough die-hard F1 fans in the Benelux, NW France and W German area to keep it going. Maybe I’m being ignorant but there’s not much to maintain! Regarding the fly-aways B Ecclestone did what he had to do to keep F1 going. The new tracks are okay, in time they will have their own heritage but I do think Hermann Tilke missed a trick in not making them more exciting. To a certain extent we have only ourselves to blame for the lack of races in Europe, poor planning and maybe too much legislation regarding where tracks can be. More street-tracks is the way to go I think. Proper ones not like the ones in Valencia and Melbourne. It would be great to see F1 cars blasting through the streets of someone European capital. There has to be a national or local government somewhere brave and wise enough to put a show like that on!

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